Paul Rodgers - Volunteer of the Month
Our latest volunteer of the month is a member of IWA's marketing committee and will be leading a WRG Canal Camp at Inglesham Lock this Summer. Find out what Paul is most looking forward to on his next WRG Canal Camp and where his favourite waterside pub is.
How did you first become interested in inland waterways?
My first real experience of the waterways was on a hire boat trip on the Wey & Godalming Navigations in 2008 followed by a holiday on the Llangollen Canal in 2009. Seduced by stunning countryside blended with the greatest monuments to waterways engineering, not surprisingly, there have been many more canal holidays since, mainly in the Midlands and on the Scottish Lowland canals.
What is your favourite waterway?
Any of James Brindley’s original canal routes – they teach patience, show that you often have to take the course that your experience and resources allow and also that it’s not a sign of failure if someday someone comes along and improves what you did. If I have to pick one particular waterway, I’d have to choose the lovely stretch on the Staffs & Worcs Canal between Aldersley Junction and Kidderminster, especially the rocky outcrops overshadowing the twists and turns from Kinver to Cookley.
How do you enjoy spending time on the waterways?
I live close to the river Cherwell near Heyford Wharf on the South Oxford Canal so my wife and I try to start the day with a walk along the canal. We’ve got some great pubs on the canal so they provide the incentive for longer walks at weekends. We don’t have a boat (yet) so when it comes to the wet bit of the waterways, we typically hire and take in a new stretch of canal for, typically, week-long breaks.
When did you first volunteer with IWA/WRG?
My wife volunteered me! She thought a WRG Canal Camp in summer 2014 might provide some much-needed rest and relaxation! There’s nothing like spending a week with complete strangers doing practical things you’ve never done before that will bring lasting benefits to generations of people who aren’t even born yet to give you a sense of what ‘worthwhile’ really means.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering with IWA/WRG?
The variety of volunteering opportunities provided by such a diverse organisation as well as its supportive culture means that I can get involved in both the things I’m good at and also have a go at developing some new skill that might be useful in everyday life. I love talking to people so it was fairly natural to volunteer to chat to people at the Crick Boat Show last year about the benefits of joining IWA whereas I knew very little about bricklaying and the chemistry of lime mortar before going on a recent WRG Training Day, a skill that will be useful on WRG Canal Camps and also in the restoration of our 17th century cottage!
What is your proudest IWA/WRG moment?
Proud moments come thick and fast in IWA and WRG life from having one of my photos used on the front cover of Navvies magazine to laying my first brick, seeing the lock gates fitted to a lock I’ve worked on or helping many young people develop new skills by doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award on a Canal Camp.
You are leading a WRG Canal Camp at Inglesham Lock this Summer, what are you most looking forward to about this and why is the project important to you?
The pace of progress at Inglesham Lock this year is so fast that I have no idea what we’ll actually be doing and what to expect, even just a couple of weeks from now. That’s exciting! It’s so useful to see the almost daily Facebook updates and then try to extrapolate forward. There really is a chance that big sections of the lock will be completed this summer. This particular site is important for two reasons; from a personal perspective it was the first WRG project I worked on and it will always be a special place for me. From the viewpoint of the restoration of the Thames & Severn Canal, the completion of Inglesham Lock will establish a foundation and create a focal point for this ambitious project.
You are a member of IWA’s marketing committee, what skills do you think someone needs to have to be on marketing committee?
There are many skills needed so thankfully we’ve got a diverse set of experienced committee members. The core skills centre on being able to empathise with such a broad audience that defies ‘targeting’ and then being supportive and encouraging to our busy Head Office marketing team as they seek to create communications that speak to that wide range of interests and convey the complexity of IWA.
With regard to marketing committee, what plans are you most excited about at the moment?
Stay tuned, all will be revealed very soon! The most important thing is not for me to be excited but for all IWA Members to be inspired by the Association’s potential to shape the regeneration of the waterways in a way that delivers benefit to all users, influencers and interests for the remainder of the 21st century – and beyond.
Favourite waterside pub?
I’m pretty fussy when it comes to a good pub. Few score highly against my criteria of choice of real ales – and maybe whiskies, unpretentious, good value food, warm, engaging staff, and relaxing atmosphere. The one that stands out for me is The Boat Inn at Thrupp, just north of Oxford. I’ve never been disappointed there and it serves food from 12pm til 9pm on Sundays; what is it with pubs that stop serving at 3pm!
Find out more about volunteering with IWA or search our volunteer directory.
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